Monday, April 16, 2007

"The Great Age of Librarians is Just Beginning" or will the "Wisdom of Crowds" Reign?

Monday 16th April, morning session

Today I learned that being a librarian is probably quite an exciting occupation to be in right now, not just a soon to be extinct vocation for those who like the smell of (possibly dusty) printed paper. If Plutchak is right, librarians can take advantage of the digital age and the plethora of search engines to free themselves from standing behind desks and start to work with researchers within their departments and thereby become more involved in the reason for the research. He suggested that the librarian can help the researcher find the "joy and delight" in the act of discovering and using research.

On the other hand, you might argue that the librarian's days are numbered and that Google's philosophy of the "wisdom of crowds" will dominate, making the masses the arbiters of what is a high quality and appropriate resource for a researcher to use. Phillipe Columbet from Google confirmed that the "wisdom of crowds" is still their philosophy but didn't actually say he thought librarian's days were numbered. Clifford Guren at Microsoft reported that the Live Search Academic draws on the need for qualification of content that is added to a search index, and that in the future search engines will need to start to rely on rankings based on criteria such as peer review.

Ultimately I think we need to tackle the overwhelming amount of information that researchers are faced with from both directions. Online research communities will intervene and provide the "wisdom of [small] crowds". Librarians should be encouraged by their institutions and beyond, to go out and spread their advice within research contexts. Indexers of content should continue to capture the breadth of content so that the obsure is available, but also consider offering quality indicators for the content in their databases. (IMHO)

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